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The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC JV) has partnered Feyenoord Rotterdam (youth) Academy, Netherlands, in a joint effort to build on the gains of the 16-year old annual NNPC/Shell Cup - one of Nigeria’s leading youth football tournaments.

The Feyenoord Academy in 2014 was voted best football academy in the Netherlands for the fifth consecutive year. The club’s investment in youth has paid out: nine out of 23 players in the Dutch World Cup squad went through the Feyenoord Academy, including Robin van Persie.

Participation in the championship has soared among secondary schools in the last sixteen years from about 2000 secondary schools when it commenced in 1999 to 3000 schools across Nigeria in 2014. This means no fewer than 60,000 students play in the initial rounds.

Shell’s Vice President Nigeria and Gabon, Markus Droll said, “We feel the games have matured enough to be internationalised and used as a vehicle to strengthen the motivation of the young men who play in these games. That’s why two coaches and a club official from Feyenoord ran coaching sessions for students and their coaches during the finals week”.

Representative of the NNPC Group Managing Director Sefiya Hamisu said that the Joint Venture partners are delighted that the football championship is improving. “We welcome the partnership we have entered with Feyenoord Rotterdam and look forward to working hand in hand with them to take the games to new levels,” she added.

Feyenoord Youth Academy Senior Coach Jan Gösgens, International Relations Manager Gido Vader and Head of the Feyenoord (street) Soccer School, Mike Obiku, travelled to Nigeria in April 2014 to give football clinics and a coaching workshop to the semi-finalists.

“Everywhere there is a lot of talent but talents need to work hard”, Jan said “if you want to develop talent, you start from the grass-roots. These boys have to work hard and need to be taught the right thing.”

SPDC JV sought to collaborate with the Feyenoord Academy in order to give the NNPC/Shell Cup an extra dimension. The youth championship is there to ensure that talented youths are able to combine education with developing their football skills and career. In the past, many students in Nigeria had dropped out of school in the hope of becoming a professional football player. In the coming period both parties will sit down to discuss next year’s edition of the NNPC/Shell Cup.

Shell’s General Manager Communications West Africa, Philip Mshelbila, underlined the importance of the partnership with Feyenoord: “This year’s start has been fantastic. The Nigerian players and their trainers benefited enormously from the Feyenoord Academy trainers, who really did bring something extra. That’s why we value the cooperation with the Feyenoord Academy.”